U.S. to Lift COVID-19 Travel Ban to Allow Fully Vaccinated Travelers

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After more than a year of various travel bans, the Biden Administration announced a uniform policy for air travel from certain countries and another for land crossings. Our Labor & Employment Group unpacks what those policies entail and which travelers are affected.

  • Travel restrictions will lift November 8
  • Vaccination or proof of negative COVID-19 test required
  • New rules in place for land borders with Canada and Mexico

On October 15, 2021, the White House announced that as of November 8, 2021, the COVID-19 travel restrictions for international travelers coming into the United States will be lifted for those who:

  • Are fully vaccinated.
  • Can present evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of their entry into the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a list of vaccines that will be accepted as evidence of being fully vaccinated. In short, the list of approved vaccines includes COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved or authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • Johnson & Johnson / Janssen COVID-19 vaccines

The CDC has indicated that the guidance also applies to COVID-19 vaccines that have been listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, such as AstraZeneca/Oxford. The CDC considers individuals to be fully vaccinated either two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

COVID-19 testing requirements will remain in place for all airline travelers entering the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people. Travelers are required to present evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result from no more than three days before their entry into the United States or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months before being permitted to board a flight to the United States. (For more information, see International Travel During COVID-19.)

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the department will ease restrictions on entry into the United States for fully vaccinated travelers from Canada and Mexico in early November. The United States had imposed entry restrictions on border crossings with Canada and Mexico to limit nonessential travel since the start of the pandemic. The restrictions have been extended monthly. According to DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the new rules will be implemented in phases, starting on November 8, 2021, to allow fully vaccinated travelers to cross the border for nonessential reasons, while unvaccinated travelers will only be allowed to enter for essential reasons. By early January 2022, DHS will require evidence of being fully vaccinated for travelers to cross the border into the United States for any reason.

This most recent update means that travelers from regions previously subject to U.S. COVID travel bans (Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the Schengen Area) will now be able to enter the U.S. directly from those countries, so long as they meet the requirements for being fully vaccinated and have evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of their entry into the United States. Land border crossings will now be easier for fully vaccinated travelers.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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